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UN: Israel-Gaza fighting ‘utterly appalling’

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council (UNSC) that hostilities in Israel and Gaza were “utterly appalling” and called for an immediate end to fighting.

Opening the 15-member council’s first public meeting on the conflict yesterday, Guterres said the UN is “actively engaging all sides toward an immediate ceasefire” and called on them “to allow mediation efforts to intensify and succeed.”

The UNSC met privately twice last week over the worsening violence but has so far been unable to agree on a public statement because the United States – a strong ally of Israel – was concerned it would damage behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

The US told the UNSC on Sunday that Washington has made it clear to Israel, the Palestinians and others that it is ready to offer support “should the parties seek a ceasefire” to end the escalating violence.

“The United States has been working tirelessly through diplomatic channels to try to bring an end to this conflict,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the 15-member council. “Because we believe Israelis and Palestinians equally have a right to live in safety and security.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who chaired Sunday’s meeting because his nation currently holds the rotating presidency of the UNSC, said, “We call upon the US to shoulder its responsibilities, take a just position, and together with most of the international community support the Security Council in easing the situation.” Beijing also announced its intention to again push the council to agree a statement.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan told the UNSC that the IDF response to indiscriminate attacks by Hamas strictly adheres to international law and that the country was taking “unparalleled steps to prevent civilian casualties.”

“Israel uses its missiles to protect its children. Hamas uses children to protect its missiles,” Erdan said.

In a later message posted on his Facebook account, he wrote: Today I fought with all my power in the Security Council to expose the hypocrisy of the United Nations that compares a Jihadist terrorist organization with a peaceful democratic country. How do you think council members would drive if rockets were aimed at their country, parents, and children? What hypocrisy it is to come and preach morals to Israel that uses missiles to protect children while Hamas uses children to protect missiles! I told the international community that no matter what they choose to do, we will continue to crush Hamas terrorist infrastructure and protect our citizens.”

Arab League UN Envoy Maged Abdelfattah Abdelaziz told the UNSC that his 22-member Cairo-based organization is urging the Biden White House “to engage in a more active and influential and deeper way in the Middle East peace process” beyond the current conflict, including actions “that would dispel delusions created by the past US administration that Israel would get everything while Palestinians would get nothing,” referring to former US President Donald Trump.

Efforts to secure a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza by the UN, Egypt and Qatar have so far offered no sign of progress. Jordan’s King Abdullah II said his kingdom is also involved in intensive diplomacy to halt the bloodshed, although he has declined to elaborate.

Washington has also sent the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department Hady Amr to meet with both sides.

US President Joe Biden spoke with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday.

After the call, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) released a statement, saying that “Netanyahu thanked President Biden for the US’s unequivocal support of Israel’s right to defend itself.” The Prime Minister also “updated the President on developments and actions that Israel has taken and on actions that Israel intends to carry out” and “emphasized that Israel is doing everything to avoid harming persons who are uninvolved; the proof of this is that the buildings in which terrorist targets are being hit by the IDF are evacuated of uninvolved persons,” said the statement.

In a pre-taped video aired at an event marking the Muslim Eid holiday on Sunday, US President Biden said his administration is working with all parties towards achieving a sustained calm, stressing that, “We also believe Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and security and enjoy equal measure of freedom, prosperity and democracy.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held telephone conversations about ongoing attempts to bring the current violence to an end with his counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Qatar, Sameh Shoukry in Egypt, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud Saudi Arabia, and Jean-Yves Le Drian in France.

Meanwhile, a growing bipartisan group of US senators on Sunday called for a ceasefire, saying in a statement released by Foreign Relations panel members Sen. Chris Murphy (Democrat) and Todd Young (Republican) that, “As a result of Hamas’ rocket attacks and Israel’s response, both sides must recognize that too many lives have been lost and must not escalate the conflict further.” 25 other Democratic senators and two independents issued a separate, similar statement calling for an immediate ceasefire.

As the Security Council held its first public meeting – after two private briefings last week – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s campaign in Hamas Islamist-run Gaza was continuing at “full force.”

It is interesting to note that not a single Arab leader has reached out to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas since the outbreak of Operation Guardian of the Walls.

This, according to the Secretary-General of Abbas’ Fatah party Jibril Rajoub, speaking to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency on Saturday; as he issued an appeal to Arab leaders across the region to publicly denounce Israel in a show of support to the Palestinians.

Israel’s recent peace partner the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which signed the Abraham Accords with Jerusalem last year, has reportedly threatened all of its planned infrastructure and economic investment in Gaza will be suspended if Hamas fails to agree to a truce soon.

“De-escalation and the highest degree of restraint are important to avoid dragging the region to new levels of instability,” said UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem al-Hashimy.

“We are still ready and willing to promote civil projects in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and under UN management [in Gaza], but our necessary condition is calm,” an unnamed UAE official told the Israeli financial Globes daily publication, adding that, “If Hamas does not commit to complete calm, it is dooming the residents of the Strip to a life of suffering. Its leaders must understand that their policies are first and foremost hurting the people of Gaza.”

Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) accused the UNSC of inertia and condemned what it referred to as Israel’s “systematic crimes” against the Palestinians.” The 57-member body issued the statement following a virtual meeting yesterday.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud opened the OIC meeting by calling on the international community to end the worsening violence and revive peace negotiations based on a Two-State solution.

Turkish foreign ministry sources said Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told the OIC that Israel should be prosecuted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), and an international protection mechanism for Palestinian civilians should be implemented.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the international community to start a “political and legislative” campaign against Israel, according to Iranian state media reports.

A furious Zarif cancelled a visit with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg on Saturday, after Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government flew the Israeli flag in Vienna in a show of solidarity. A Spokeswoman from Austria’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the incident, saying, “We regret this and take note of it, but for us it is as clear as day that when Hamas fires more than 2,000 rockets at civilian targets in Israel then we will not remain silent.”

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Esmail Ghaani telephoned Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday to praise the Islamist group’s “unique and successful answer” to Israel, reported the Iranian Al-Alam Arabic-language service.

At a rally in Qatar Saturday night, meanwhile, Haniyeh vowed Hamas would continue its “resistance” against the “Zionist enemy,” while vowing that “resistance is the shortest road to Jerusalem” and that Palestinians will never accept anything less than a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Lebanon’s Designated Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is demanding international condemnation and claiming Israel violated its ceasefire with Hezbollah, after a 21-year-old Lebanese man identified as Mohamed Tahan died after being shot in the leg by IDF troops after he and other rioters infiltrated Israel on Friday. Israeli military tanks fired warning shots at a group of suspects who had sabotaged the border fence and set a fire in the area before opening direct fire. The incident occurred during a protest on the Lebanese side in support of Hamas, during which crowds waved Palestinian and Hezbollah flags, and banners reading: “On the way to Al-Quds (Arabic for Jerusalem).” Residents of the nearby Israeli town of Metulla were ordered to stay indoors during the incident.

Turning to Syria, where the Palestinian Tahir Brigade militia stationed in Syria claimed responsibility for the firing of 3 rockets towards Israel on Friday evening. 2 of the missiles hit non-populated areas, while the third fell on Syrian territory. No injuries were reported during the attack.

In Jordan, riot police had to forcibly push back a group of about 500 protestors attempting to cross into Israel via the King Hussein Bridge, known abroad as the Allenby Bridge. The group was part of a larger demonstration estimated to number around 2,000 people near Karameh, northeast of Jericho.

At least 11 rioters were reported killed and over 150 others injured on Friday during violent clashes with the IDF in the West Bank, attended by some 5,000 Palestinians protesting in support of Hamas.

One Palestinian was shot and killed after he tried stabbing an Israeli soldier near Ramallah, while another 20-year-old rioter is reportedly in serious condition after being shot in the chest during violence in the Arab Israeli town of Kfar Kanna, north of Nazareth.

In other violence, 7 Israeli Border Police officers were injured in car-ramming attack in Jerusalem yesterday, during clashes with Arabs in flashpoint east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah yesterday. The terrorist was shot dead at the scene.

The Sheikh Jarrah attack came just hours after Palestinian terrorists opened fire at an Israeli vehicle outside the Palestinian town of Bani Na’im in the southern West Bank. One bullet hit the vehicle and the driver fled to the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba. No injuries were reported in the incident.

On Saturday night, a Palestinian vehicle tried to ram soldiers at an IDF checkpoint south of Hebron. The troops opened fire at the car, killing the driver. Another passenger managed to escape.

In separate incident this morning, the IDF foiled another attempted car-ramming attack near Nablus in the West Bank. No troops were hurt in the incident and the suspect was also neutralized.

There has been an upsurge in domestic terrorism, including rising strife between Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens. This afternoon 56-year-old Israeli Yigal Yehoshua, who was hit in the head by a brick hurled by Arab rioters in Lod overnight last Tuesday, died of his injuries.

There have also been dozens of protests, both in support of Israel or in favor of Hamas, held across the world over the weekend.